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What's for lunch?

Posted by Nancy Clark RD CSSD Mar 23, 2009

Lunch logistics tend to be a hassle:

     - If you pack your own lunch, what do you pack?

     - If you buy lunch, what's a healthful bargain?

     - If you are on a diet, what's best to eat?

The following tips may help you improve your lunch intake.


Brown bag lunches

People who make their own lunch commonly end up packing the same food every day, and end up with yet-another turkey sandwich, yet-another salad, or yet-another bagel. As long as you are content with this repetitive diet, fine; just be sure to get more variety in the other meals. But if you're tired of the same stuff, consider these suggestions:


• The best lunches, nutritionally speaking, include at least 500 calories (even if you are on a reducing diet) from THREE types of food at lunch. This means bagel + yogurt + banana, or salad + turkey + pita. Just a bagel or just a salad is likely too little fuel.


• Enjoy peanut butter. Peanut butter is a great food for active people (even those on a diet) because it “sticks to the ribs” and keeps you fueled for the whole afternoon. Yes, peanut butter may be have more calories than does a turkey sandwich, but the satisfying PB sandwich allows you to nix the cookies and other afternoon snacks. You’ll end up saving calories in the long run.


• Pack planned-overs from dinner and heat them in the microwave oven. They're preferable to the cup-of-noodles that cost more than they're worth.


Fast food lunches.

When you're grabbing lunch at a quick service restaurant, look for the lower fat options, such as––

• the BK Broiler chicken sandwich (without mayo) + lowfat milk + apple (brought from home)

• McDonald's grilled chicken (w/o mayo) + vanilla shake

• two of Taco Bell's bean burritos + diet soft drink

• 2 slices of veggie pizza (blot off the grease with a napkin)


Cafeteria lunches

If you are lucky enough to have a cafeteria at work, or are eating a business lunch in a restaurant, take advantage of this opportunity to have a well balanced hot meal. Enjoying a nice dinner at noontime:

1) fuels you for a high energy afterwork exercise session,

2) simplifies your evening meal––you'll feel less hungry and may be content to enjoy a bowl of cereal or a sandwich,

3) reduces afternoon hunger and vending machine raids.


Lunch for dieters:

Overweight people commonly hesitate to eat much lunch when other people are around. Sad statement, but never-the-less true in our society––and a big mistake. A good lunch can help you be more effective at work, feel less hungry in the afternoon, and be less likely to raid the refrigerator the minute you arrived home. Lunch helps you lose weight. Do not skip it!

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More than ever, Americans are confused about what to eat. Many active people, in particular, try hard to feed themselves and their families healthfully. They often wonder--

What are the best foods to eat? To avoid?

How can I reduce my risk of heart disease?

How can I cook for my friend with cancer?

What’s the best way to end family food-fueds?

How can I lose weight healthfully?

What’s best to eat before I exercise?


If you are looking for a list of books that address these and a multitude of other nutrition questions and concerns, please visit the American Dietetic Associations’ Good Nutrition Reading List:

Go to

Click on “Food and Nutrition Information”, and then

Good Nutrition Reading List.

Or, more simply, click here: 


Good Nutrition Reading List


The books are all based on sound nutrition information. Many are written by registered dietitians or other nutrition professionals.


Have a good read!


Nancy Clark MS RD

1,873 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: nutrition_books, recommended_reading

Nancy, I am training for my first marathon and am starting to get to the point where I am out on my runs for over an hour. I am trying to figure out what products I should be consuming to keep up my energy levels and keep me hydrated at the same time.


Answer: First off, congrats on your hard work and dedication to your training program.


I am glad you asked about how to fuel during long runs, because fueling is an important part of your training program. You need to train your intestinal tract, as well as your heart, lungs and muscles. Too many marathons are needlessly lost in the porta-potties…


You can experiment with standard foods (gummy candy, twizzlers, dried pineapple, rice crispy treats, fig newtons, pretzels) or “products” like gels, bloks, or sports beans. There is nothing magic about the engineered foods, other than convenience and portability.


Before the long run, you want to eat a small meal that will settle well during the long run (oatmeal, bagel, pasta). That food will keep you energized for about 60 to 90 minutes. Then, you want to target about 200 to 300 calories per hour (depending on your body size). While some (or all) of those calories can come from a sports drink, you can also drink plain water and get carbs with the suggestions listed above.


You might want to go to the website of your event and see what food/fluids they will offer on the course. By training with them, you'll know what ones work for your body.


Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD




1,646 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: marathon, fueling_during_a_run, sports_drink
Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Member since: Jul 8, 2007

Hi! I specialize in nutrition for exercise, and help active people figure out how to manage food, weight, exercise, energy and enjoyment of eating. Let me know if you have any questions!

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